Daniel W. Drezner

Some tech-friendly advice for the student body

Yesterday the New York Times ran a series of short essays by senior professors proffering advice to incoming students.  Martha Nussbaum, the youngest of this group, started teaching in 1975.  Most of the advice from the group boils down to the "take risks, live your life, embrace freedom, think outside the box" kind of stuff that ...

Yesterday the New York Times ran a series of short essays by senior professors proffering advice to incoming students.  Martha Nussbaum, the youngest of this group, started teaching in 1975. 

Most of the advice from the group boils down to the "take risks, live your life, embrace freedom, think outside the box" kind of stuff that is perfectly appropriate at commencement.  That said, today’s students might want some more concrete advice. 

Soooo…… I’ve only been teaching since 1997, but here are four very specific pieces of advice to new university students:

  1. Turn off your cell phone before entering class.  You are 21 or under, so think about the following question:  is there any call so important that the pain of missing it exceeds the pain of the death stare that will emanate from our instructor when your Ringtone goes off? 
  2. For that matter, shut down your wifi as well.  Think you can check Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, and still absorb the class lecture?  You can’t.  Don’t even try, because the moment you drift away, it will be next to impossible to re-engage with the class session.  For those students resistant to this idea, here’s a pragmatic piece of advice — try shutting the wifi down for the first 20 minutes of the class session.  If the class still puts you into a stupor, surf away! 
  3. Read your f#%$ing syllabi.  There are things that will annoy your professors more than asking questions that are clearly answered in your course syllabus….. things like waterboarding. 
  4. Yes, you can use Wikipedia as a research tool; no, you can’t footnote it.  Sure, Wikipedia is one obvious route towards researching a paper.  The key, however, is not to stop at Wikipedia, but to follow the footnotes.  Citing a Wikipedia entry is lame; citing a research article referenced by the entry is significantly less lame. 
  5. Don’t say anything bad about Salma Hayek.  At least, don’t say it in my classroom.   

Veteran students and professors should feel free to offer their own advice in the comments. 

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